I'm still not a brewer, but I'm preparing myself to do my first batch soon enough. However, this summer, when I began to think about what I needed to do (after reading Papazian's and Palmer's book), I read that it was important to ferment at the good temperature. This brought to me many questions and complications due to my limited space (I'm in an appartment with my gf) and due to my hands' agility limitation (I'm really _not_ a handyman). I'm in Montreal and, as it is humid here, there's no swamp cooler. With that in mind, I posted a thread here ; http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/temperature-129115/
OK, in Montreal, the winter is cool, but as I'm in a big building and there's some old people here, the heat is set very high for the entire building. And my only space to put my cooler in is a small closet far away from a window... So, I need some kind of temperature control.
I continued to read on this board, and I've stumbled upon the Son of a Fermentation Chiller / Mother of a fermentation chiller. Now, these things seemed perfect to me. It's a very aesthetic solution as I didn't like the idea of having lot of water to cool with ice... it's a lot of hassle for no precision in temperature control, although very cheap. And I didn't find igloo cooler anywhere near my apartment.
However, I'm kind of a anti-handyman. My father was of the school of thinking that it could hurt me, so he never let me use his tools whenever he was working. And, well... I'm more of a theorist than a manual kind of guy, I have always been very poor using my hands. Yesterday, I managed to destroy an Ikea furniture my gf bought while trying to build it...
But I was willing to learn as the thing seemed about right. I wanted to have a nice wooden thing with insulation foam in it's interior. With wheels to move it around in my apartment... So, one of my friend, who is a lot more of a handyman than me (hell, he helped his dad to build extensions to his house, built many other things and like to work with his hands) accepted to help me. But, he was here to _help_ me, not do all the work himself.
We didn't have any specialized tool like a saw here. Only basic stuff and a drill he brought. We asked the hardware store to cut the plywood sheet the good size for us. They were the right size, right, but... they weren't straight. So the fermentation chiller isn't perfectly straight which gave some complications.
Here is some pictures of its construction :
Plywood sheets (1/2")
Insulation foam (1") and Reflectix insulator
The wooden base :
Beginning to put insulation foam (I varnished the interior wood with oil varnish before putting insulation foam):
Gluing the insulation foam on the wood. I put mecanical pressure to be sure the glue holds well :
The doors and cold strips to insulate better the sides of the doors...
The final product :
The ice compartment :
The two doors (one only to switch ice, and the other one to put my carboy inside) :
THe front view, with pencils and pens holding the doors tight (my gf will probably want her pens back soon...)
So, I'm very proud of having build this. I learned a LOT of things with it. First thing first : a project always take more time than predicted.
I'm running some test as of now about maintaining a good temperature. There's nothing in it, I just want to see how well he can holds the temperature. Right now, I managed to hold a 65 F for (it's not over yet) for at least 42 hours, which surprises me. There's still some ice left... so I'm very impressed and I think it can hold for at least 48 hours. With 4 liters of ice in Sprite bottles, which is about 1 gallon. My apartment is approximately at 75 F, so I have a small dT of 10F.
I was surprised that there's so much differences between a typical water bottle and a typical cola bottle. As an example, water bottles (Naya, Esker, Dasani and the likes) needed the fan to run all the time, but were holding the temperature OK for a long time. I couldn't cool, but I could maintain the temperature. However, Sprite and Coca-Cola gave their coolness faster so the fan could stop periodically from running.